Mercy Readies Tornado-Tough $450M Joplin Hospital

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , May 1, 2013

Two years after an EF5 tornado flattened Joplin, MO and gutted St. John's Regional Medical Center, the new Mercy Hospital Joplin is being built to stand strong against natural disasters with a host of upgrades. Storm-hardened windows will be the facility's centerpiece.

May 22 marks the second anniversary of the devastating EF5 tornado that flattened Joplin, MO, left 161 people dead and injured more than 1,000 people.

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The town of about 50,500 souls plans to honor its dead and commemorate the catastrophe at a public ceremony that will include a moment of silence at 5:41 p.m., marking the minute in 2011 when the twister first touched down on the western edge of the town and began its devastating tear.

While the ceremony will honor what the region lost on that horrible day, Joplin city planners say they will use the event to highlight the progress made in rebuilding and to subtly shift the focus toward the future. Rebuilding and looking to the future are also the focus at the new Mercy Hospital Joplin, which is planning a March 2015 opening for the $450 million, 900,000-square-foot, 260-bed hospital that will replace the storm-gutted St. John's Regional Medical Center.

Despite the quick thinking and valiant efforts of St. John's staff two years ago, five patients and one visitor inside the hospital died from injuries and other storm-related factors when the tornado blew out windows, peeled off the roof, and shut down electrical power, back-up generators, and communications.

Immediately after the storm a team of engineers used the unique circumstances provided by the catastrophe to comb the gutted hospital and identify the weak links.

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